Interview with Zimad : a rising star in the international art world

Zimad –– or Luis, his real name –– is one of the rising stars in the international art world. You can often see him on TV in the United States and elsewhere. His art is a mix of graffiti associated with different characters, and for those of you who like modern art, Zimad is definitely somebody to watch closely. We had the opportunity of meeting him in New York City to find out about his art, and to hear a little bit more about this rising star.
Q : Could you tell us a little bit about yourself ?
My name is Luis “Zimad” Lamboy. I was born and raised in the South Bronx area of New York City. I started my career as a graffiti artist at the age of 14 in 1979. My first gallery showing was at the Fashion Moda in 1984. I’ve been doing many gallery shows since then along with freelancing. My freelance work consisted of painting denim jackets for singers to wear on stage, such as Patty Labelle, Anita Baker, New Kids on the Block, Will Smith, Jazzy Jeff, The Boyz, backdrops for TV show Steampipe Alley and a couple of TV commercials. I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1987 and in my first year I was awarded a scholarship majoring in textile designing. In 1989 I was a part of a graffiti programme sponsored by Planned Parenthood. The programme was called “m.a.g.i.c.” (More American graffiti in control). It helped graffiti artists to channel their negative energy into a positive stream. What we did was to sign a contract to stop defacing people’s property and use that energy to paint canvases instead. In fact, I was already doing this at that point in my career. In 1993 I decided to take a break from art which lasted five years. I made my comeback in 1998 when I was involved in the first major graffiti auction at Guernsey’s Auction House. This sparked what had been missing in my life for the previous five years. I haven’t stopped since.

I feel the role of graffiti in society has come a long way since its beginnings. Although it was the first element of hip-hop, back in those days it was misunderstood and looked down upon. It seems to have been the last element to be accepted and that acceptance is still very modest. There are different types of so-called graffiti art : there is the vandalism side which is still not accepted ; and then there is the artistic side which can be defined as aerosol art done by an artist who had once done graffiti or an artist who learned how to paint with a spray can but may have never actually done graffiti. There are very few who have broken that barrier. Basquat and Haring do their unique style and stand out from the crowd. Nowadays you have so many more artists becoming stars in their field. This makes me believe that the art of graffiti (or in my own case painting a canvas using graffiti elements) is being accepted much more than ever before.
In 2004 I was introduced to the “5ptz Graffiti Factory” through a friend who was running the place. I attended an event that was called “old-timers’ day”. On this day the graffiti artist who I looked up to, the ones that were doing it ten years before I started, were there painting the whole back of the building, there had to be about sixty of them. I was so taking aback by this event that I’ve been going back every weekend ever since and now not only am I a resident artist there, but I also contribute my time, my advice and my paintings to raise money to keep the place running. The 5ptz is considered the mecca of graffiti because it draws not only graffiti artist from all over the world, but also tourists come to see the five-storey building that is covered from top to bottom with some of the best graffiti and aerosol art in the world,. The art on the building changes every couple of weeks and there are events that include all the elements of hip-hop and live aerosol art, while the disc-jockey spins records, break dancers dance and rappers spit their lyrics at the same time. There are booths set up were you can purchase a T-shirt or an original painting from a local artist, as well as a small gallery in the loading dock which features a different artist every week.
I’ve been at this for thirty-three years now and every year it seems to get better and better. I’ve done Art Basel in Miami Florida for the first time with my close friend and graffiti accomplice James « Sexier » Rodriguez. We’ve been putting on shows together along with pushing the limits of our work since the 1980s. We ended up getting into two shows for Art Basel, as well as having a show in Daytona at the same time. He will be in to New York the end of March 2012 for a show where we are both appearing at the same time. We will be rocking a wall before he heads back then in April. I will be heading down to Florida to do some gallery stuff with him for upcoming shows.
Two of my spray-can sculpture pieces from a show I had at Harper Fine Arts Gallery in Daytona had been taken in by a museum on Hollywood Boulevard called the Death Museum. I’m currently working on new works now for upcoming gallery shows along with stuff for this year’s Art Basel 2012.Zimad's Art